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7 The Friend Zone See, when a girl decides you’re her friend, you’re no longer a dating option—you become a complete nonsexual entity in her eyes. Like a brother. Or a lamp. —Chris Bander, Just Friends I wouldn’t call myself movie connoisseur, but I can’t resist the chance to talk about the film Just Friends. And I’ll take any chance I have to talk about Ryan Reynolds and Amy Smart and to rewatch clips of Ryan Reynolds. Because he’s incredibly funny, and they’re both super hot. Now, Just Friends is exactly what you’d imagine a movie like this is about—the friend zone, that strange, liminal, oftenconfusing space that is the center of angsty observations by everyone from Seinfeld to long-ago famous Christian writers like Joshua Harris of I Kissed Dating Goodbye (Harris references the friend zone in only an oblique way). Ryan Reynolds and Amy Smart play Chris and Jamie, best friends from high school, and of course, Chris is in love with Jamie. At the end of their senior year, he is humiliated after his romantic 127 declaration is discovered in her yearbook and then read aloud by her current boyfriend to everyone at a party. She doesn’t reciprocate, so Chris leaves, dejected. After some years pass, he moves on to become successful, cool, incredibly attractive, and a womanizer. Through the magic of movie storytelling, he somehow ends up back in his hometown, where he reunites with Jamie, only to find those old feelings surface again. The story is a back-and-forth, he-said/she-said whirlwind with side characters who complicate the narrative, but predictably, in the end, the guy gets the girl. Chris escapes the friend zone, and that is, apparently, the ultimate goal. I can’t think of a single movie where the guy doesn’t get the girl but they remain friends. If such movies exist, they are few and far between. We live in a culture that idolizes stories about the prince getting the princess or sometimes a pseudofeminist vice versa. Either way, it’s the myth that one’s destiny is somehow fulfilled totally and completely in another person. The friend zone is rarely a desired position, and not just for those sex-crazed or even mildly sex-interested individuals who are trying to get past the platonic into someone’s pants, as it is often portrayed in the typical rom-com. Moreover, it is a position that is looked at negatively by those who believe they need to follow the script and move toward that ultimate relationship: one that is monogamous and procreative . According to this script, friendship only gets you so far, though it is a good place to start. I’ve certainly discovered in my own marriage, and observed in other couples, that Outside the Lines 128 friendship is a good foundation for one’s forever relationship . But, it’s hardly ever considered as an end in itself. Friendships are usually seen as peripheral, superficial, and utilitarian—necessary only to a certain level and only within a certain framework. They’re just not as important as the spousal relationship. These days, I have found a deep sense of identity and wholeness in queer friendships, that is, friendships that blur the typical boundaries. My hope is that we will embrace “friendship, not coupled love,” as the normative adult human relationship, where “friendship undergirds [all] our commitments .”1 I’m reminded that most historical treatments of friendship aren’t terribly robust. They likely find their roots in Greek thinkers like Aristotle, and in fact, many of the early Greek writings were unsurprisingly focused on the male-male friendship. The thinking at the time was that females weren’t mentally, emotionally, and intellectually evolved enough to have friendships in the same way. But in general, the beginning glimmerings of life for the early Christians in the Greco-Roman world was markedly different when it came to friendships, relationships, and marriages, and certainly when it came to men and women. I digress, slightly. What’s useful for us is the reminder that these shifts around relationships constantly happen throughout history—sometimes implicitly, in corners and hidden rooms, and sometimes, explicitly, through stories and policies . These queer shifts in understanding the vital role of The Friend Zone 129 friendship invite me to organize my daily life intentionally around my connections with others. Friendship is not a second-tier, perfunctory kind of interaction...


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